Explore the US with Southwest’s Destination Finder

I have only recently been getting into the idea of earning airline miles towards travel, but now that I have a basic idea of how to make the system work, I’m feeling good about my point accrual and upcoming possible free (!) trips. Before, I just used sites like Kayak to buy the cheapest ticket regardless of carrier, but the more I learn about loyalty programs, the more likely I am to stay brand-loyal when booking flights. I’m working on a post about dipping my toe into the frequent flyer game (going up soon), but today I just wanted to share something really cool that I found on Southwest’s website.

The Tool

I’m not sure how I found this tool, I was just cruising around the Southwest.com website when I was bored and stumbled upon it. The Destination Finder tool is helpful for estimating points needed for reward travel. It lets you choose your origin airport and use a slider to select different point values. It is like casting a net and seeing how far you can get (round-trip) for a certain number of points.

How to Use

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First, you will choose your origin location. I chose San Diego, because that’s where I live. This first step would be especially useful for someone who lives halfway between airports—the reward prices and destinations might be different depending on where you depart.

Next, using the slider, you can gradually increase the values and see locations light up red as you pass their threshold. Below, you can see the first round of destinations I can reach for the lowest number of points (below 13,000). This is interesting to me because I can easily drive to Las Vegas in six hours, so flying to Salt Lake City or Boise seems like “more travel” for what I’m “spending,” assuming I have an interest in going there.

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Another thing to note is which cities in close areas are cheaper. If you look again at the picture above, you’ll notice that San Jose is cheaper than Oakland or San Francisco. Depending on the point difference, it might make sense to fly into San Jose and rent a car to get to San Francisco. Something to keep in mind when planning.

When you see a city you’re interested in, you can click it and they will give you an estimated value of points for a round-trip ticket. I chose Wichita because my husband’s family lives out there, and we have lots of college friends in the area.

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I frequently get junk mail from Southwest inviting me to enroll in their credit card program to earn Rapid Rewards. Their sign-up bonus is currently 40,000–50,000 which could get two round-trip tickets to Wichita. Personally, I don’t play fast and loose with credit cards, so I haven’t signed up (I’m currently enrolled in a different airlines reward credit card). But if I had enough reasons to add another credit card to my wallet it’s good to keep sign-up bonuses in mind.

Summary

I mainly wanted to share this tool because I know that Southwest has very loyal fans and their Rapid Rewards program is pretty popular. This section of the website is not easy to find but fun to mess around with while daydreaming destinations. The idea of reward travel can be very uncertain and nebulous; this helps put point values to trips and makes it easy to set goals. Southwest is a great carrier because of their generous bag allowances, friendly staff, and outstanding customer service, so I’m definitely going to put more energy into earning points with them and using that to travel domestically.

Did you know about this? Does your loyalty program of choice have a tool like this? If so please link me to it so I can play around with it! 

This post was not sponsored by Southwest. 

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